New Danish festival makes solid first impression

Heartland Festival - a celebration of music, art, food and talks – made its debut this weekend at the pristine Egeskov Castle grounds on Funen. The Local’s Allan Kortbaek was on hand to catch some of the action.

New Danish festival makes solid first impression
From the very get-go, it was obvious this wouldn't be your typical festival. Photo: Allan Kortbaek
Friday, 12pm, Odense Station
The regional train bound for Svendborg was crammed with festival-goers and merrymakers keen on making Heartland’s first show of the day. This was no ordinary festival crowd though. By contrast to Roskilde’s young pilgrims and their heavily-laden beer wagons, this was a group of slightly older culture patrons. Casually clad, sporting smart rucksacks and minor camping gear, Heartland’s festival contingent made their way through the scenic fields of Funen, docking at the outpost of Kværndrup, from which frequent shuttle buses helped them complete the rest of the journey. 
Photo: Allan Kortbæk


The grounds around Egeskov Castle are something out of a mediaeval fairytale. I follow the masses through long, wooded passages, a sea of green around me. Entry to the festival is smooth and on my right, a few metres from the gate, friendly volunteers are on hand to help me store my baggage. The castle greets you with verve as one saunters through the Renaissance garden, its shimmering moat a tribute to a bygone age.

Photo: Allan Kortbæk
A festival of a different sort
Keen on getting to know my surroundings, I explore the grounds armed with my festival app map, a subtle, effective replacement to the thick stacks of pamphlets, brochures and paperwork that usually accompany the festival experience.  It is clear from the start that the festival organisers have taken the time to really think things through.
The grounds are clean and kept, albeit inviting and conducive to interaction. Stimulating this, Bang and Olufsen has wired an old tree by the castle moat with a series of hanging headphones broadcasting their popular #soundmatters podcast. And where better to bring the element of sound into focus? Heartland’s acoustics were some of the best I have experienced at any festival.
Further down from the tree, on the grassy shore by the moat, yoga sessions create a relaxed atmosphere that breathes tranquillity into the fresh countryside air. 

Photo: Allan Kortbæk
My weekend schedule limited my Heartland experience to a mere day. Folk aficionados the Pierce Brothers kick things into action at one of the two music stages, Highland. Their laid-back, country-infused musicality injects a homely, Mumford and Sons-esque sensibility straight from Melbourne into the Heartland universe.  Kudos to the twin brothers for their experimentation with a didgeridoo during their performance.

Photo: Allan Kortbæk
An hour later, at the Lowland Scene, Denmark’s equivalent of Lana Del Rey, Kwamie Liv, seduces an inquisitive, sitting audience, with a coaxing voice that eases the afternoon into gear. Other highlights of the day include, England’s singer-songwriter guru, Michael Kiwanuka, American folk sensation Sun Kill Moon and record producer Mark Ronson, who provided an evening party of epic proportions. 
Photo: Allan Kortbæk
The artistic element was incorporated into virtually every aspect of Heartland Festival. From elaborately decorated trees to Brian Eno’s latest work, ‘The Ship’ installation, art is very much a driver at the throbbing heart of this festival. Lying on a bean bag in a dimly-lit castle room amidst knight armour suits, mediaeval paintings and musky tapestry with the dreamy, evanescent soundscape of Eno’s work reverberating off the thick walls, there were moments of elation, peace and contemplation that were well and truly unique. 
Photo: Allan Kortbæk
Heartland is an experience with far more depth and breadth than the usual modern festival experience.  The beacon of performance art, Marina Abramovic and Danish artist Tal R, provided the best of the Heartland Talks, with an epic one-hour performance that saw them switch roles with moderator Tine Colstrup, who looked dumbstruck for the better part of the show. Any experience that gets the audience to stand up and scream at the top of their lungs for several minutes is surely something special. Other talks of the day included an exploration of evil by Norwegian journalist and writer Åsne Seierstad (known for her chilling book on Anders Breivik, ‘One of us’) and documentary filmmaker Janus Metz (director of the war documentary, Armadillo). 
Complementing the music, art and talk experiences, food was another central element of the Heartland Experience. On the downside, all external food and beverage was prohibited and the prices at the various food stalls were definitely on the pricey side. However, the culturally-astute target group that the festival targeted seemed prepared to pay more for the variety and quality of the culinary experience at Heartland, which included a wide range of organic products.  

Photo: Allan Kortbæk
Overall verdict 
There is no doubt that Heartland Festival was a success at its very first attempt. A small-scale festival with focus on other elements in addition to a diverse, international music lineup, Heartland was both well managed and well thought-through. 
With that said, the target group was definitely not your average festival crowd. The smash and grab, cathartic aspects of typical Danish summer festivals were replaced by contemplative experiences that created depth and room for inner reflections. To this end, the clean and kept nature of this festival made it accessible for all age groups, a stark contrast to the post-Roskilde camp site apocalypse that decorates Zealand’s countryside long after the merrymaking and mosh pits have been banished to mere memory. 
Equally, Heartland provided concerts not too indifferent to the likes of Stella Polaris, somewhat void of dancing at times but replete with opportunities to relax. Some would say this is boring – my verdict is that it is in keeping with the qualities of the tranquil location. Can we expect more from Heartland Festival next year? Absolutely. 

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Denmark’s summer music festival hopes fade

The possibility of large-scale music festivals taking place in Denmark this summer has been described as “unrealistic” following the publication of expert recommendations for coronavirus-safe events.

Denmark’s summer music festival hopes fade
The Roskilde Festival during the glorious summer of 2018. Photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

Music events such as the Roskilde Festival, the largest of its kind in northern Europe, would not be able to take place as normal and must be without overnight guests under the recommendations, submitted in report form by an expert advisory group to the government on Friday.

The group, appointed as part of the national reopening plan, was tasked with looking at how festivals and other large events can take place this summer.

The recommendations will provide the basis political discussions which will form an agreement over large events which will be integrated into the reopening plan.

READ ALSO: Denmark enters new phase of reopening plan: Here’s what changed on April 21st

Seven various scenarios, including one for outdoors, standing events, were considered by the expert group in forming its recommendations. Two phases have been set down for eased restrictions on large events, which are currently banned due to the public assembly limit.

In the final phase of the restrictions towards the end of the summer, a maximum of 10,000 people would be permitted to attend an event. All attendees would be required to present a valid corona passport, and audiences would be split into sections of 2,000.

Although that could provide a framework for some events to take place, Roskilde Festival, which normally has a total of around 130,000 guests and volunteers including sprawling camping areas, appears to be impossible in anything resembling its usual format.

The festival was also cancelled in 2020.

Roskilde Festival CEO Signe Lopdrup, who was part of the expert group, said the festival was unlikely to go ahead should it be required to follow the recommendations.

“Based on the recommendations, we find it very difficult to believe it is realistic to organise festivals in Denmark before the end of the summer,” Lopdrup said in a written comment to broadcaster DR.

The restrictions would mean “that it is not possible to go ahead with the Roskilde Festival. That’s completely unbearable. But that’s where we’ve ended,” she added.

The news is potentially less bleak for other types of event with fewer participants, with cultural and sporting events as well as conferences also included in the recommendations submitted by the group.

Parliament has previously approved a compensation scheme for major events forced to cancel due to coronavirus measures this summer.